The Trollhattan Saab 2007 review – the top 9 stories.

Ummmm….I was going to do a year in review entry where I sort through the five biggest stories of each month in 2007. That’d be sixty stories linked here.

Not gonna happen. I have a bathroom to paint today, plus, there was over 1,000 entries written on this blog this year. Actually, we’re up to 3,667 entries and over nearly 26,000 comments now.

Phew!

So here’s what I see as the Top 9 Saab stories of 2007. These are in no particular order.

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1 – Diesel comes to Australia

This makes the list becuase it’s a case study in bringing the right the car to the right market at the right time.

The arrival of Diesel Saabs here in January gave them a full year to measure the market and it’s definitely been a bonus, with diesels accounting for almost one third of sedan sales and more than half of SportCombi sales, and Saab Oz passing their 2006 sales total in October of this year.

The addition of the TTiD Aero model next year should prove to be another added attraction for 2008.

2 – Saab 60th Anniversary

The year in the US kicked off with Saab hosting a 60th Anniversary drive event in San Diego.

1985 Gripen was there and did an absolutely brilliant job of covering the event. Gripen got to spend the day driving 2007 Anniversary edition Saabs, as well as a session at an airfield driving Saabs from the GM heritage collection. And did I mention that all that time in the Anniversary editions was spent with one Erik Carlsson in the passenger seat?

It’s brilliant reading – Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

There’s also a 60th Anniversary category section, with a whole bunch of photos from the event as well as other 60th stories.

3 – The 2008 Saab 9-3

Te biggest news of 2007 was undoubtedly the arrival of the 2008 Saab 9-3 range. With new aggressive styling and improvements inside and out, the 2008 Saab 9-3 is a very positive move on Saab’s part. The 2008 model year introduction saw the arrival of the TTiD engine, which is an absolutely brilliant package that should see Saab diesels increase in popularity even more.

The 2008 model year also brought about the introduction of the new fourth generation Haldex all-wheel-drive system. Saab call it XWD and it’s a cracker of a system. Coupled with the optional eLSD this system is able to not only split power between front and rear wheels, but also from side to side at the rear. It’s rollout in 2008 should definitely see some increased interest in Saabs.

4 – The Saab Turbo X

The Saab Turbo X was unveiled in Frankfurt as the launch vehicle for the new XWD system. It’s limited to just 2,000 units worldwide, has the full XWD system (including eLSD) as standard equipment and special wheels and trim to mark the special nature of the model. Hit the following link for EVERYTHING you need to know about the Saab Turbo X.

There was considerable debate about the 280hp output of the vehicle – given that Saab now had all-wheel-drive an output of 300+ was expected, and even spoken about to me by one source in Sweden. But horsepower aside, this is going to be one very exciting vehicle to drive.

5 – The Saab Festival

For me, personally, this was definitely the highlight of the year. To go to Trollhattan, visit the factory, the museum, the parts sale, to see so many vintage Saabs in one place, see them on the track (V4’s, strokers, SPT), and to meet so many other like-minded enthusiasts was a dream come true.

The Saab Festival was just incredible and I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who helped me get there this year. I can’t speak highly enough of the city, or the people there who made the trip so memorable. The next Saab Festival will be in 2009 – hey, that could be right around Saab 9-5 launch time – so set aside some time in your calendar now and make sure you get there.

There’s a full Sweden 2007 archive here.

6 – The Saab 9-4x is coming

Saab traditionally don’t deal with the media too much, and after learning lessons with the last few cars showing early on the internet, they’ve got their act together and have kept everything very tight-lipped with the Saab 9-4x. I’ll bet my house, though, that it’s going to be the vehicle we see in Detroit in just a few weeks time.

This is significant, of course, because it’ll be a third model added to Saab’s lineup, which is sorely needed, and it’ll be a genuine Saab replacement for the much-maligned but capable Saab 9-7x.

The 9-4x file so far, is here.

7 – Jay Spenchian leaves, Steve Shannon arrives

This one was unexpected. Jay Spenchian took over from Debra Kelly-Ennis in 2005 in a management move that was welcomed by most. Jay immediately impressed with his ‘car-guy’ attitude and the Born From Jets made a great initial impression.

Jay Spenchian left Saab USA in April this year and was replaced by Steve Shannon, who came from Buick. I think it’s fair to say that Steve didn’t make the same initial impression as Jay did – sometimes we wondered if he really existed – but word is he’s been working away behind the scenes to shore up the dealer and support networks this year. With a slow-moving model timeline and declining sales in the US, there’s been plenty of support work needed.

I welcomed Steve with an open letter on the website, which ended up being mentioned by a few US-based news services in interviews with him, which was fun. I finally recorded my own interview with Steve a few months ago and published it here and it makes for some interesting listening – part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

There’s still a long way to go there.

8 – Germany falls through the floor

One of the things I really hoped for in 2007 was a building up of sales in Germany. It’s not written about too much, but this was probably another of the most important stories (or non-stories) for Saab in 2007.

This didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, things went backwards there in 2007. Germany is almost a greenfield market for Saab again now. Hopefully a full year with the 2008 models with XWD and TTiD will see some increased interest there. It’s such a huge market for Europe and Saab need to be amongst it more.

9 – BioPower growth

Saab’s BioPower range experienced some serious growth in 2007. We even got it here in Australia!!

The biggest growth was in Sweden, of course, where a BioPower option was introduced into the Saab 9-3 range. This led to increased 9-3 sales at the expense of the Saab 9-5 there, but not quite to the extent we expected (which was basically total obliteration). Of the Saab 9-3 sold in Sweden in November 2007, around 80% were BioPower, and this figure was even higher for Saab 9-5s.

Saab are poised for further BioPower growth in 2008 as more countries in Europe take up E85 and make suitable legislative moves for its introduction. Other manufacturers are coming up with flexfuel options, though, so it certainly won’t be a picnic in the E85 market in the future.

Saab also showed the BioPower100 concept during 2007, which had the coolest tail lamps ever!

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So there you have it. Those are the stories I see as being the biggest news for Saab in 2007 in one way or another. They didn’t always bring in the most comments, that’s for sure, but they were significant in either showing the way, or shaping the future for Saab.

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On a personal note, I’ve mentioned here more than once that this has been an up-and-down year for me. I always seem to have bad years when it’s an odd number. I’m not superstitious at all, but it just seems to happen this way.

I had the high of the Saab Festival in June, followed immediately by the lows of crashing my Viggen and modifying this website (disastrously) in July. I’ve been in recovery mode ever since.

2008 will start with a bang with the Detroit Auto Show and the Saab 9-4x concept in less than two weeks from now. I’ve also got some other thoughts with regard to the development of this website, which are scary and exciting all at the same time.

Thanks for your support throughout 2007 and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2008.

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5 Comments

  1. Not long before 2008 approaches the land of Australia. A very big Happy New Year to You and every reader here, There were only a couple of days I missed logging in and that was while driving to and from the festival in Trollhattan. It was great meeting you in Sweden and I’ll be one of those who visits Trollhattan again in 2009. In 2008 I’ll try and log in each day. It’s been great having you there Swade. Robin.

  2. And we have well over 24 hours before the ‘ball drops’ here in the USA.

    Great work on the site this year Swade! Hopefully 2008 is a better year and you get everything worked out with your car – especially before another gang of those abysmal huntsman spiders decides to make your Viggen into a permanent home.

    Perhaps I will catch up with you in Motor City if time permits…

  3. Ted, that’ll be great if you can make it. Let me know if you’re coming….

    Ditto, Robin. It was great hooking up and I really hope I’ll make it back in 09. And don’t think I didn’t notice those few days when you didn’t check in….:-)

  4. 33 to 50% takes for first year diesels in Oz hopefully gives TPTB some indicator of how lucrative this undeveloped sector in the US market could be. HNY all.

  5. fred: I just wish GM would “bite the bullet” and spend a bit more money on each unit to make each diesel meet 50-state-emissions requirements. I mean, that’s what the German mfr’rs are doing to sell diesels here. Their bean counters apparently figured it’s worth their while.

    Toyota sold the first-gen of Prius at a loss to gain market share and I’d say it’s paid-off handsomely for them. Maybe GM needs to take a similar tact? I mean, how much can it cost to add particulate and NOx filters and urea injection to existing diesel powertrains?

    With the new CAFE rules and energy bill passing perhaps GM will be forced to expand diesel offerings in the States to offset their gasoline vehicles and bring the average fleet fuel consumption to over 35 mpg.

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